View from the Müller Bad

Munich Philharmonic Orchestra with James Levine

Munich Philharmonic Orchestra

The Munich Philharmonic was founded in 1893 on a private initiative of Franz Kaim, the son of a piano manufacturer, and since then has left an indelible imprint on Munich’s cultural life under the leadership of renowned conductors.

Back in the orchestra’s earliest years – initially under the name “Kaim Orchestra” – conductors like Hans Winderstein, Hermann Zumpe and Bruckner pupil Ferdinand Löwe guaranteed the high technical performance level and evidenced great interest in contemporary creativity. Right from the outset, the effort to structure programs and prices to offer all levels of society access to the concerts was also part and parcel of the artistic concept. With Felix Weingartner, who directed the orchestra from 1898 to 1905, its international reputation was enhanced through several tours to other countries.

Gustav Mahler directed the orchestra in 1901 and 1910 at the world premières of his Fourth and Eighth Symphonies. In November of 1911, the orchestra, meanwhile called the “Konzertverein Orchestra” performed the world première of Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” under Bruno Walter’s direction – only a half year after the composer’s death in Vienna.

From 1908 to 1914, Ferdinand Löwe again took over the orchestra. In the wake of a triumphant guest appearance in Vienna on March 1, 1898 featuring Anton Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony, he conducted the first large-scale Bruckner concerts and thus founded the orchestra’s Bruckner tradition, which has continued unbroken to the present day. During the administration of Siegmund von Hausegger, who guided the orchestra as its General Music Director from 1920 to 1938, the world premières of two Bruckner symphonies in their respective original versions took place as well as the final, definitive change of the orchestra’s name to “Munich Philharmonic”.

From 1938 to the summer of 1944, Austrian conductor Oswald Kabasta headed the orchestra, gloriously advancing the Munich Philharmonic’s Bruckner tradition and also proving the high quality of the orchestra on a number of tours at home and abroad.

The first concert after the Second World War was opened by Eugen Jochum with the overture to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, whose music had been ostracized during the Nazi era. With Hans Rosbaud, the Philharmonic gained an outstanding leader in the autumn of 1945, one who also passionately advocated modern music. Rosbaud’s successor – from 1949 to 1966 – was Fritz Rieger. During the era of Rudolf Kempe. who headed the orchestra from 1967 until his untimely death in 1976, the Philharmonic undertook its first tours to Japan and the former Soviet Union.



In February of 1979, Sergiu Celibidache conducted his first concert series with the Munich Philharmonic. In June of the same year Celibidache was appointed General Music Director. Concert tours took him and the orchestra through many European countries as well as to South America and Asia. The legendary joint Bruckner concerts made a major contribution to the orchestra’s international standing. During the Celibidache era the orchestra was repeatedly invited to accompany the Federal Government or the Federal President as musical ambassadors.

In 1985, following a long interim period of over forty years in Munich’s Herkulessaal, the Philharmonic finally again got its own concert hall after over forty years with the Philharmonie in the municipal culture center on the Gasteig – its old home, the so-called “Tonhalle” on Türkenstrasse had been completely destroyed in 1944.

From September 1999 until July 2004, James Levine was Chief Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. With him, the Munich Philharmonic undertook extended concert tours: after a grand European tour in the winter of 2000, it made a guest appearance with James Levine in February 2002 at New York’s Carnegie Hall. In the summer of 2002, they made their joint début at the BBC Proms in London. In the spring of 2003, the Munich Philharmonic was awarded the prize for the “Best Concert Programming of the 2003/2004 Season” by the Society of German Music Publishers.

Under the title “Jugend horcht!” (“Youth Listens to!”) the Munich Philharmonic has developed an extensive program for children and young people over the past years. With chamber music concerts for children, school and young people’s concerts, workshops, rehearsal
attendance, school visits by Philharmonic musicians, instrument demonstrations as well as subscriptions for school and college students to choose from, children and young people have a number
of options for getting involved with classical music and the work of a great symphony orchestra. During the 2003/2004 season, some 25,000 children and young people all in all took part in approximately 160 events.

Over the previous five years, the Munich Philharmonic introduced three new subscription series’ and increased the number of subscribers by 46% to meanwhile almost 17,000 people. With some 250,000 persons attending concerts per season, representing 95% of the seating capacity, the Munich Philharmonic ranks as one of the most popular cultural institutions in Germany.

In January of 2004, the Munich Philharmonic named Zubin Mehta the first “Honorary Conductor” in this history of the orchestra.

In May of 2003, Christian Thielemann signed his contract as new General Music Director. His administration began in September of 2004, on October 29, 2004, he conducted his inaugural concert featuring the Fifth Symphony by Anton Bruckner. In conjunction with the awards ceremony for the “Euro-Klassik” prize for the year 2004, the Munich Philharmonic performed in the Philharmonie in the Gasteig on October 24, 2004. On this occasion, Christian Thielemann was the only prize winner to receive the award in the special category “Artist of the Year”.

At the start of the 2004/2005 season, Wouter Hoekstra assumed his duties as General Manager of the Munich Philharmonic.